The inhalation of airborne fibres in the workplace can cause a variety of occupational respiratory diseases, which contribute appreciably to morbidity and mortality among workers in both developing and developed countries. Monitoring airborne fibre concentrations is an important tool for occupational health professionals for assessing exposure and establishing the need to control it, evaluating the efficiency of control systems, and characterizing exposure in epidemiological studies. However, a proliferation of methods has hitherto hindered the comparability of results, as well as the possibility of having worldwide proficiency testing to ensure the reliability of obtained data.
A methodological framework that allows for meaningful comparisons between results obtained by different researchers and laboratories is of immense benefit for all aspects of occupational hygiene, but particularly for exposure assessment and environmental monitoring. In addition to proficiency testing, quality assurance schemes, comparisons and exchanges of data and international collaborative studies depend on the use of compatible methodologies. Furthermore, to ensure that preventive control systems in the workplace are adequate and effective, the reliability and comparability of monitoring and exposure data are essential. Occupational health surveillance and the ability to establish correlations between epidemiological and environmental indicators also depend on the ability to compare data from diverse sources.